Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Keeping the Bugs Away


my life in Appalachia - Keeping the bugs away

If you’re around a camping area or attend an evening cookout after dark in Appalachia (and in other places) you’re likely to see citronella candles sitting around in an effort to ward off the bugs.

Instead of using store bought candles or torches Pap built a small fire and placed green or damp leaves and branches on it to produce a smoky haze to ward off the bugs.

Pap’s fire didn’t smell near as good as the citronella, but I do believe it worked a whole heck of a lot better.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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  • Reply
    July 15, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    Never had much luck with citronella keeping bugs away, though we do like the smell. But we DO know bugs don’t like smoke, so Pap’s way was sure to work.
    I wonder what would happen if the smoke was made with burning wet leaves or wood that smells good to begin with – like cedar, or honeysuckle, etc. Hmmm, might have to try that.
    Prayers everyone’s having a great weekend, and a safe one too.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    July 14, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    Just this week I heard from someone that a spray bottle filled with half pine sol and half water is the perfect repellent. She just sprays her clothes and her hands before she goes outside to work, and she swears that both flies and mosquitoes “head for the hills.”

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    July 14, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    The smoke works if you sitting still. Working is whole other thing and all that works for me is the smelly, sticky sprays. All I remember in the mountains of my childhood were gnats. Granny warned me of getting chiggers but I don’t think I’ve ever seen or had a chigger. ?
    Now in Tri-Cities in TN mountains the mosquitos and ticks are horrible. During the day if I walk in the grass, the NO-See-Ums eat up my ankles. Where on earth did they come from???
    I have to wear light-weight surgical scrubs tucked in socks to walk my dogs.!
    My dogs and cats have enough meds on board to protect them from all the blood suckers and my friends horses wear fly sheets and masks.
    Too bad we lost DDT.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 14, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Daddy had a smoker for bees. It had a compartment wherein a smoldering rag was placed and a bellows that puffed out the smoke. The smoke didn’t actually repel the bees, it just calmed them down so that they didn’t feel an inclination to sting anybody.
    A thought just hit me. What if somebody (not me) put some of that wacky backy in a bee smoker. The smoke might really calm down all the insects and the people too. Maybe the whole neighborhood. I’ll bet you would have plenty of guests at your cookouts. People you don’t even know would show up.

  • Reply
    July 14, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    I don’t have a problem with them. I guess they don’t like how I taste.

  • Reply
    July 14, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    Mosquito plants are all the rage now…I just plant lemon balm, basil, catnip and rosemary in pots around our sitting area. Works like a charm!

  • Reply
    July 14, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    I wonder if I could set up a few smoky fire containers around my place and give this a try – it’s illegal to do outdoor burning here at this time of year, but maybe just smoldering would be okay! With all the rain – just about daily since “Spring” – the bugs have been unbearable this year. I feel so sorry for my goats, as nothing I sprayed on them – homemade or storebought – has seemed to give them any protection or relief. Nor me either.

  • Reply
    Carol Rosenbalm
    July 14, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    I’ll have to try paps way! Our family uses dryer sheets and place them on our head with a baseball cap. Seems to work at least part of the time!
    Carol Rosenbalm

  • Reply
    July 14, 2017 at 11:58 am

    When we would visit our Mamaw and Papaw, the house was so hot in the summer we would sit out under the trees. Mamaw would build a knat smoke, she’d call it and the small knats with large teeth would leave us alone.

  • Reply
    July 14, 2017 at 11:10 am

    I love the smell of a campfire. When we use to camp at the Head of the Lake (Nantahala), at night the gnats and skeeters got real bad. You had to eat your supper in the truck or in the tent, especially after a rain. That was way before scientists come up with all these newfangled diseases. I guess time changes everything. …Ken

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    July 14, 2017 at 10:17 am

    My sweetheart gave serious ‘thought’ to this ‘BEAUTY’ topic! He has suggested that a herd of bats would be the simplest solution to get rid of the bugs. And the BATS would be available every evening of the summer time!!
    Now about that ‘SMOKE FOLLOWS BEAUTY’ notion! Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have proven that this idea is a misconception or even a misrepresentation! Those SCIENTISTS like BIG WORD!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    July 14, 2017 at 9:23 am

    When my farmer granddad would work where the gnats were bad, down along the creek, he would “smoke grapevine.” He didn’t actually smoke it, but would hold a stout piece of smoldering grapevine clenched between his teeth to keep the gnats at bay.
    There is at least one place in Appalachia free of biting insects–no mosquitoes, no biting flies, no ticks, no gnats and no no-see-ums–and that place is Deep Creek Lake in far western Maryland.

  • Reply
    July 14, 2017 at 9:13 am

    I’ll bet your herbal “granny” girl could come up with a way to make the green branch smoke smell wonderful! If she comes up with some alpha test products, I’ll be happy to test them for her. Especially if it will chase off those dreadful zika carrying mosquitos!!
    Smoke is definitely one of the best ways to chase off bugs!

  • Reply
    Elaine Napier
    July 14, 2017 at 9:05 am

    In the mountains of Harlan County,Ky., we used what we called a gnat smoke.A piece of cloth would be set on fire, slightly snuffed out to rid of flames and the cloth would smolder and smoke, providing some protection from the gnats and mosquitoes.

  • Reply
    July 14, 2017 at 9:03 am

    My parents started a fire with an old rag, put out the flame and let it smoke to keep bugs away. This was done when we went outside to enjoy the cool evening air or while we broke up green beans on the front porch. The only cookout we ever had was when we built a fire under the big galvanized tub that held jars of vegetables we were preserving.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    July 14, 2017 at 8:37 am

    I have to agree with you somewhat…I love the odor of a campfire and sitting around a campfire…however we add Citronella as well…
    Here’s a “how come question”! How come that even if it’s been a ninety degree day, that of a’evenin’ after dark, that a campfire brings everyone huddled together for singing, tall tale telling and a s’more or three….HA
    Thanks Tipper,
    Did anyone in NC…see the large white (light) fireball or meteor last night very high in the sky descending…between 8:45 PM and 10:15 PM. It was seen all the way back toward Nashville!
    Biggest one my husband ever seen in his life he said…others say there was a meteor shower with some large displays…Our dog started barking at dusk and didn’t let up until after eleven, no scoldin’ helped either! He must have been scared…this is our outdoor hound!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 14, 2017 at 8:29 am

    Pap’s solution is the one I knew growing up. I was a teenager before I ever heard of citronella or bug spray either. I’ve never been very fond of bug spray of any kind. Mostly I’ve just let them bite and I scratch afterward. However, blood-borne diseases carried by mosquitos or ticks are too serious to skip all precautions. But those diseases have become known in my lifetime.

  • Reply
    July 14, 2017 at 8:21 am

    My go to to ward off critters is Avon’s original scent Skin So Soft. Keeps the bugs away, you smell good and moisturize your skin all at the same time 🙂

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    July 14, 2017 at 8:14 am

    I remember as a girl scout 65 years ago we sat around a campfire in the evenings and sang. One of our leaders would collect green leaves and place them around the outside of the fire. The smoke was annoying but I don’t think we had a lot of bugs.
    When the smoke came in our direction we said “smoke follows beauty”.
    Thanks for the memories.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 14, 2017 at 7:11 am

    Some of the old ways were better than what we have now and so much simpler! Some days I look at all our newer ,computerized, and electronic “things” and long for the older things that worked dependably and lasted a lifetime, or more..

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